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Destructive Cults

The Family; Charles Manson

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"You made your children what they are.... These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.... You can project it back at me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you. My father is your system.... I am only what you made me. I am a reflection of you. You made your children what they are.... These children that come at you with knives, they are your children. You taught them. I didn't teach them. I just tried to help them stand up.... You can project it back at me, but I am only what lives inside each and every one of you. My father is your system.... I am only what you made me. I am a reflection of you." Charles Manson:

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About "The Family:"

This group is unrelated to a faith group called: the Church of God, Family of Love and The Family.

Charles Milles Manson was born on 1934-NOV-11 or 12; sources differ. He is a person with an unusual ability to dominate others. He assembled a destructive, doomsday cult around himself, which the media later called The Family. At one time, it numbered in excess of 100 individuals at the Spahn Ranch some 30 miles northwest of Los Angeles CA. Manson was referred to both as "God" and "Satan" by his followers. As the family's guru, he claimed to be a reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Manson was concerned about damage to the environment and pollution. He once commented: "Your water’s dying. Your life’s in that cup. Your trees are dying. Your wildlife’s locked up in zoos. You’re in the zoo, Man. How do you feel about it?"

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Mass murders perpetrated by The Family:

The first murder by the family was of Gary Hinman, a Los Angeles drug dealer and musician. His body was discovered on 1969-JUL-31.

The first series of mass murders, called the "Tate" homicides, occurred at the home of Sharon (Tate) Polanski on 1969-AUG-9. Three victims were shot and/or stabbed multiple times on the grounds of the estate. These were Abigail Folger, Steven Parent and Voiytek Frykowski. Sharon Polanski and Jay Sebring were murdered inside the house. Sharon, 8 months pregnant at the time, died from numerous stab wounds, five of which were by themselves fatal; Jay died of blood loss. Both had their necks loosely attached by a single rope over a rafter.

The next homicides, called the "LaBianca murders," occurred two days later in the home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. They were found stabbed to death with dozens of wounds.

Finally,  Donald Shea was murdered. He was a former stuntman and hired hand at the Spahn Ranch.

The police appear to have been stunned by the horrific details at the mass murder crime scenes. They badly bungled the task of collecting evidence. They were unable to find the clothing worn by the murderers. A television news crew was able to locate the clothing later.

Although Manson is not believed to have killed anyone directly, he ordered his followers to commit the famous Tate, LaBianca and other murders.

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Possible motives for the murders:

The murders were on the surface motiveless and unconnected to Manson, but some key motives were later identified.

bulletManson was highly hostile to society, pathologically so, and wanted revenge.
bulletManson had been rejected by the music industry and wanted revenge. One suggestion is that he targeted the Tate house because it represented his rejection by the show business community he wanted to enter, and that it was of no interest to him who his actual victims would be.
bulletManson got a 'kick' out of death and control. During the trial, one witness commented that "he [Manson] doesn't know about love... love is not his trip. Death is his trip."
bulletThe killers were attempting to clear the blame from their friend, Bobby Beausoleil, by committing a copycat murder.
bulletManson had come to believe that Armageddon was imminent, in the form of race war, and believed he was destined to be the ultimate beneficiary of it. Manson viewed race war as imminent, describing it as Helter Skelter, "all the wars that have ever been fought, piled on top of each other." He told his followers that this was imminent, but that there was a secret underground world reached by a hole underneath the desert, where they would wait out the war in bliss. He described this many times, and it was a part of their communal belief, so much so that they stocked up supplies and searched for the hole prior to the crimes. Blacks would win the war, but be unable to run the world through lack of experience, and the Family would therefore emerge and run it for them as a benevolent autocracy with Manson at the head of this new world order. The war would be triggered by "some black people coming out of the ghetto and doing atrocious crimes... killings... writing things in blood." However, by summer 1969, Manson was heard to say that blacks did not know how to start its role in this war, so he would have to show them.

Although all five were possible motives, in the trial the prosecutor placed the last as the main motive, despite its unusual nature. The police and DA argued that Manson found sections within the Beatles' song Helter Skelter and within the last book in the Christian Bible, Revelation which he felt referred to a devastating future race war between blacks and whites. By murdering some high-profile people, he expected to trigger the "final days" conflict.

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The arrest and trial:

A major break in the case happened in 1969-NOV when thirteen Family members were arrested on a charge of grand theft (auto). Several sources say that it was Susan Atkins alone who was arrested on a charge of prostitution; this appears to be an error. While in prison, she talked to her cellmate about having been involved in the Tate murders.

Charles Manson and three of his followers (Krenwinkel, Atkins, Van Houten) were charged with the Tate/LaBianca murders. The trial was spectacular. Manson spent much of the time with his back to the judge; his actions were repeated by his co-defendants and other followers. He shaved his head and carved an swastika on his forehead; his "family" followed suit. All four were found guilty and sentenced to execution. Manson and other family members later received death sentences for the Hinman and Shea killings. The death penalties were commuted to life imprisonment in the 1970's when California law was changed.

In 1997-AUG, Manson was transferred from Corcoran State Prison to the tougher Pelican Bay State Prison as punishment for a drug bust. He was placed in a segregated Security Housing Unit where he had little contact with other inmates. In 1998-MAR-26, he was returned to Corcoran where he remains today. His address is:  Charles Manson, B-33920, 4A 4R-23, P. O. Box 3476, Corcoran, CA 93212. He is currently eligible for parole, although his chances of being freed are slim.

One source found "at least 100 pages of information from the faithful" on the Internet. 1 One remarkable web site compares Manson with the Hindu God Shiva. 2 Another site, Access Manson, appears to be a semi-official Manson web site. 3 It contains extensive information about ATWA (Air, Trees, Water, Animals) which is Manson's environmental group.

On 2002-JUN-28, Leslie Van Houten was denied parole for the 14th time. She had stabbed Rosemary LaBianca sixteen times as a drug-crazed teen-ager. Since then, she has obtained a bachelor's and master's degree and has been a model prisoner, who has not accumulated a single disciplinary report in the past 25 years. She chairs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation group twice a month. She is now 52. She is not the person she was at age 19 when she participated in the crimes," Van Houten's attorney, Christie Webb said: "She has not taken drugs in three decades. She is much more of a leader than a follower in prison. ... And she has insight into how she could have participated in these crimes and how she can make amends."

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The aftermath:

The Family survived the incarceration of Manson. After his arrest, Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, one of Manson's shrewdest, toughest and most obedient followers, effectively took command of the management of The Family in his absence. With a handful of other followers, mostly women, she perched on the steps of the Los Angeles courthouse during the trial, shaved her head to protest his conviction and, copying Manson, gouged an X into her forehead as a sign of loyalty. She later explained: "We have X'ed ourselves out of this world."

On 1972-NOV-13, Michael Monfort, James Craig, Priscilla Cooper, Nancy Laura Pitman and Lynnette Alice Fromme were held for the murder of James T. Willett and his wife.

On 1975-SEP-05, Fromme unsuccessfully attempted to assassinate U.S. President Gerald R. Ford in Sacramento, CA. It appears that although she managed to get close to Ford, by mistake the chamber of her .45 Colt was empty. She was heard to say, "It didn't go off. Can you believe it? It didn't go off!" She stated she had committed the crime so that Manson would appear as a witness at her trial, and thus have a worldwide platform from which to talk about his apocalyptic vision. She escaped prison in 1987-DEC, apparently to try to reach California and Manson. She was recaptured two days later.

Manson remains imprisoned to this day (2008). More than nine applications for parole have been denied, most notably in 1986 when he appeared before the parole board with a swastika embossed on his forehead. During his stay in prison, Manson has received more mail than any other prisoner in the United States prison system. It is said that he gets over 60,000 pieces of mail a year; much of it is fan mail from young people hoping to join The Family.

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Mansion's musical career:

Charles Manson released his album "One Mind" during 2005-APR. Three years later, he made it available under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike 2.0 License. This allows anyone to remix the songs for non-commercial purposes, as long as they give proper credit to Manson, and issue it under the same license.

According to WikiNews:

"The website Family Jams (Mansonís record label), which offers hard-copies of the CD, says that 'ONE MIND is pure Charlie, no additions, no corrections, no added opinions, filters or editing... consisting of songs, trance-poetry, conversations, raps, ramblings, musings and more.' The cover-art is a painting by Manson, liner notes include excerpts from his letters, and, as the sites mentions, song titles and interludes are by friends or editors'. The disc has 16 tracks, totaling almost 76 minutes of Manson's work."

Manson was part of the Los Angeles music scene before his conviction as leader of the Manson Family commune. He was close to Beach Boy Dennis Wilson óManson wrote the song 'Never Learn Not to Love' for the Beach Boys.

"In 1970, Manson released the album Lie: "The Love & Terror Cult" to finance his trial. The Manson Family also released The Family Jams, with songs written by Manson. Manson has released several albums since." 8

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Movie about the group:

Lindsay Lohan will play the role of Nancy Pitman in an movie called "Manson Girls." She allegedly was fascinated by Charles Manson before she entered rehab for drug and alcohol addiction in 2007: She said: "Yeah, I have a dark side. I watched all those videos on Charles Manson for a while."

Lohan also stars in the movie Chapter 27 about the assassination of John Lennon. 8


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The Family was a group with Christian beliefs. Total body count (1969): at least 8.

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Books about Manson and the Family:

bulletVincent Bugliosi with Curt Gentry, "Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders,"  W. W. Norton, (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
bulletCharles Manson, as told to Nuel Emmons, "Manson in His Own Words," Grove Press, (1988). Read reviews or order this book  [Manson denies authorship of this book]
bulletNikolas Schreck, "The Manson File," Amok Press, (1988). Read reviews or order this book
bulletEd Sanders, "The Family," Thunder's Mouth Press,(2002). Read reviews or order this book
bulletMichael J. Pellowski "The Charles Manson Murder Trial: A Headline Court Case," Enslow Publishers, (2004). Read reviews or order this book
bulletTommy Udo, "Charles Manson: Music, Mayhem, Murder," Sanctuary Records, (2002). Read reviews or order this book
bulletEdward George, Dary Matera "Taming the Beast: Charles Manson's Life Behind Bars" St. Martin's Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book 
bulletCharles Watson  "Will you die for me?" F. H. Revell, (1978). Read reviews or order this book
bulletM. Terry, "The Ultimate Evil," Bantam Books, (1989) Read reviews or order this book

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Documentary films:

bulletManson documentary directed by Robert Hendrickson and Laurence Merrick (1973)
bulletCharles Manson Superstar documentary directed by Nikolas Schreck (2002)

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Dramatic films:

bulletThe Manson Massacre directed by Kentucky Jones (1972)
bulletHelter Skelter directed by John Gray (1976; Director's Cut: 2004, Warner Home Video)
bulletThe Book of Manson directed by Raymond Pettibon (1989)
bulletThe Manson Family directed by Jim Van Bebber (2003)

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Sponsored links:

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Internet references:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Deborah K. Fillmer, "Forensic science and the Charles Manson murders," at: http://www.cris.com/
  2. "Astonishing similarities between Charles Manson and the Hindu God Shiva," at: http://members.aol.com/
  3. "Manson Family Murders, 1969-1971" at: http://www.umi.com/
  4. A web site "Access Manson" is dedicated to Manson and is billed as "A real source for Manson Thought." See: http://www.atwa.info/
  5. A list of web sites which deal with Charles Manson and The Family is at: http://www.goto.com/
  6. Buddy T, "Leslie Van Houten Denied Parole: Stabbed Rosemary LaBianca 16 Times as a 1969 Teen on Drugs," at: http://www.alcoholism.about.com/
  7. "Charles Manson." Wikiepdia, the free encyclopedia, from: http://en.wikipedia.org/ Portions of this essay were copied from the Wikipedia site on 2005-JUL-09
  8. "Charles Manson releases album under free license," Wikinews, 2008-APR-06, at: http://en.wikinews.org/

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Portions copyright © 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-APR-07
Part author: B.A. Robinson

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